31.08.2020 China

China arrests thousands for COVID-19 related crimes, threatens death penalty

By Jan van der Made with RFI
LISTEN AUG 31, 2020

Nearly 5,800 people suspected of killing health workers, selling defective medical equipment and lying about their travel history have been arrested in China for epidemic-related crimes since January, the state prosecutor's office said.

One case involved a shopper that beat to death another customer who reminded him to wear a mask in a supermarket.

Other cases included a person who deliberately mowed down medical workers with a car, and another was arrested for stabbing a health inspector with a dagger when monitoring temperatures.

Some have also been accused of embezzling money collected from fundraisers to help coronavirus patients, selling defective medical equipment and lying about their travel history or health condition.

"From January to July, 5,797 people were arrested and 6,755 were prosecuted," the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement Thursday.

China has largely brought the spread of the novel coronavirus under control since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in December 2019 with strict lockdowns, aggressive contact tracing and close monitoring of neighbourhoods.

The country has also deployed a range of smartphone apps to track the whereabouts of people to quickly identify possible cases.

Wearing a mask is mandatory in supermarkets, cinemas or on public transport, and many choose to wear one while outdoors as well, as a safeguard against the virus.

Death sentence
China started persecution COVID-19 related crimes in an early stage.

Already in the beginning of February, when the illness was mainly concentrated in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the state-controlled Global Times reported that the high people's court in Heilongjiang Province in the north of the country, issued a notice saying that “people who spread the virus intentionally and endanger public security would be suspected of violating the criminal law and can be sentenced to death.''

People who use the virus to “create or spread rumors, to promote secession from China or undermine national unity, or incite subversion of state power or the overthrow of the socialist system can face a maximum 15-year jail term,” added the notice.

There are no statistics available as to how many Chinese citizens have been effectively persecuted for COVID-19 related crimes.           

China has not reported any locally transmitted infections in recent days.

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